Progressive Education at
Peninsula School

In 1925, the ideals of fearless thinkers such as Francis Parker, John Dewey and Maria Montessori, inspired Josephine Duveneck and a small group of parents to search for a school where learning was joyful and exciting, where children could learn by doing, and where both independence and group cooperation were valued. Unable to find one that suited them, they started the “Peninsula School for Creative Education,” one of the first progressive schools in California. Those ideals, deceptively simple and intuitive to us today, have endured as guiding principles for our school for the past ninety-four years. These ideals continue to influence not only the progressive education movement in America, but public and private institutions of education worldwide.

Francis Parker is recognized as one of the first thinkers to apply progressive ideals, popular at the end of the 1800’s, to education. Active just before the turn of the century, he believed that schools should teach with the whole child in mind – physical, social, emotional, and cognitive – and he promoted the idea that children were capable of complex, independent thinking. Slightly later, John Dewey’s propositions that children should be active participants in their education (not simply vessels to be filled with discreet information), that schools should act as models of a democratic society, and that schools should fulfill a social good, resonated with the growing progressive movement. Working in Italy, Maria Montessori recognized each child as an individual and advocated for providing children with greater independence and the freedom to choose activities in their days.

Mrs. Duveneck’s beliefs in educating the whole child, in social justice, in the importance of being an active participant in one’s education, one’s nation, and in the world, and in inspiring children to learn through the choices they make each day, coalesced with the progressive ideals of Parker, Dewey and Montessori to form the principal approach to education at Peninsula School. Peninsula School has grown and changed, but its commitment to those early goals has remained constant. The atmosphere is relaxed and informal, and the emphasis is as much on play and fellowship as it is on academic growth.

Mrs. Duveneck’s generous and tenacious spirit established a new and innovative school that would provide  children with a place of joyful learning where each was recognized as an integral member of the community, a place that celebrated intellectual curiosity, and a place that was committed to participating in and improving society. These ideals continue to inspire us today.

by Jim Benz, Head of School


Josephine and Frank Duveneck

Josephine and Frank Duveneck

The Big Building

The Big Building

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